How does Windows Deployment Services (WDS) work?
It's quite simple. The WDS server sit on your network and listens for PXE boot requests. When it receives a request, it sends down a boot image to the PXE enabled client. The boot image, running Windows PE is then used to download and install the actual operating system image. The boot image and operating system image is stored in the Windows Imaging format (.WIM) on the WDS server.
Choosing where to deploy WDS
This one is pretty straight forward for our Unit34.co domain. Since we only have one subnet, WDS will be deployed on that subnet. What we do need to consider is whether we want to deploy WDS on an existing server such as CARBON.Unit34.co or on a new virtual machine. Our recommendation is on a new virtual machine (called Cobalt.Unit34.co). Deploying it to CARBON.Unit34.co is fine as well. Whatever you choose, just make sure there is enough hard disk space provision for the Windows images you wish to deploy.
In a domain with multiple subnets, you'll need to work out which is the best subnet to deploy WDS to as well as how to configure the routers with IP Helper trickery. We're not going to cover this here in this article.
Start by creating a new Windows Server 2012 R2 virtual machine called Cobalt.Unit34.co with enough disk space (40-60 GB) to hold your install images. Alternatively you can use install WDS on your Hyper-V host CARBON.Unit34.co.
To install WDS on your server;
- In Server Manager, star the Add Roles and Features Wizard.
- Continue through the wizard until you get to the Server Roles page. Select the role Windows Deployment Services.
- Leave the feature selection as is on the Features page and continue through the wizard to install WDS accepting any default values. The defaults will install the WDS roles Deployment Sever and Transport Server.
- Once WDS is installed, close the wizard.
After installing WDS, we need to configure the WDS server. Start the Windows Deployment Services management console under the Tools menu in Server Manager.
In the Windows Deployment Services management console, right-click on your WDS server and select Configure Server to start the Windows Deployment Services Configuration Wizard.
Integrate the WDS server with Active Directory.
Enter the path for the remote installation folder. For our lab environment, accepting the default value is fine otherwise please use a NTFS volume prepared earlier that is separate from your system partition.
If you've kept the default path for the remote install folder you'll see the following warning. Just click Yes to continue.
Configure the WDS server to Respond to all client computers (known and unknown) and then complete the wizard.
Importing Windows Images
Before we can start deploying Windows over our network, we need an Windows image to deploy. There are actually two parts to this. First we need to prepare and import our boot image. Second we need to prepare and import our actual operating system image. We're not going to cover Windows image management here so in our example, we're just going to use the default images (boot.wim and install.wim) you can normally find on Windows install media.
Start the Windows Deployment Services management console under the Tools menu in Server Manager. In the Windows Deployment Services management console, select your WDS server and right-click on the Boot Images folder, select Add Boot Image.
Select your boot.wim file on your Windows install media. It should be located under the sources folder under the root of your Windows install media.
Accept all the defaults and complete the wizard. Your boot image should now be imported.
Now back in the Windows Deployment Services management console, select your WDS server and right-click on Install Images and select Add Install Image. The first thing you need to do is create an image group. We've decided to create one called Windows.
Select your install.wim file on your Windows install media. It should also be located under the same sources folder in the root of your Windows install media. If you don't see an install.wim file but an install.esd file instead, you'll need to export it into a .WIM file. Here's a quick reference on how to do that quickly here.
Accept all the defaults and complete the wizard. Your install image should now be imported.
Performing a network boot
How you perform a network boot will depend on the device you are booting. You may need to configure the firmware of the device you are booting. For most computer, hitting the F12 key during boot will cause the computer to perform a network boot. If WDS is configured correctly, performing a network will download the boot image you imported early to the computer and then from there, you can install your Windows operating system.